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Development must be balanced, says new National Trust leader

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Karen Border, the new executive director of the Bermuda National Trust (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Karen Border, the new executive director of the Bermuda National Trust (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The new executive director of the Bermuda National Trust has called for a slowdown in land development proposals.

Karen Border said last week that she recognised that land development proposals were a way of stimulate the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic had brought the economy to a halt.

But the new head of the Island’s largest conservation charity added that, while she understood its value: “There must be a sustainable balance.”

Ms Border said: “We’re at the point now where there is so little open space left in Bermuda that we really can’t afford to sacrifice any more of that open space to development.”

She added: “I’m particularly concerned about the continuing pressure to build on the coastline despite the risks from sea level rise and increased hurricane activity due to climate change.

“Once you allow building right on the coastline the next thing you know you get is an application for building an ugly seawall or a retaining wall to protect that coastal development.

“The net result would be a coastline that’s really nothing but concrete.”

Ms Border said that the Government should instead look to make better use of brownfield sites, as well as restoring derelict buildings and building more concentrated housing.

She was speaking on Wednesday almost three weeks after taking up her new post.

Karen Border, the new executive director of the Bermuda National Trust (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Ms Border, who previously worked as the communications manager for the law firm Conyers, had been on the BNT’s council for about ten years before her appointment.

She said the biggest problem that she expected to face was finding stable funding for the Trust.

Ms Border admitted that it was expensive for the organisation to preserve all its 82 heritage sites, which totalled 277 acres of land, and that it relied on donations and volunteers to do the job.

She said: “It is my belief that if we demonstrate to our members and our donors that the Trust is an organisation that is really delivering value to the community – that we’re an active and vibrant organisation – then we’ll attract the necessary funding.

“I want to get to that position where there is a greater understanding of the value of what the Trust does so that we can attract that funding and our properties can generate some of their own funding.”

Ms Border said that she hoped to strengthen the public’s confidence in the Trust and give them a better understanding of what it did as an organisation.

She added that this would involve showing their donors what their money has been used for and reminding volunteers of the value of their work.

Ms Border added that she also wanted to emphasises the importance of its heritage sites and why they must be protected.

She said: “It comes down to our shared sense of community – understanding our heritage is so crucial because that is what binds us together.

“In terms of natural heritage, it’s our sense of place – we all identify with this little rock in the middle of the Atlantic.

“On the cultural heritage side, it’s that shared experience from the past, which have very different perspectives depending on if you’re Black or if you’re White.

“I think that if we understand that heritage and explore it, it can really help to inform who we are as a community in the present day.”

Ms Border said that she wanted to promote Bermuda’s heritage by using fun events and sharing more of the stories that the public wanted to know about.

She added that the Trust’s plan to incorporate the stories of enslaved people who lived at the Verdmont Historic House and Garden in Smith’s, which now stood as a museum, was an example of this engagement.

Ms Border added that changes could also include offering walks similar to the Christmas walkabout in St George’s year-round.

She said: “We definitely have some good ideas and plans here at the team and I look forward to rolling them out.

“I just don’t want to share the details yet until we have a more formulated plan.”

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Published July 20, 2021 at 7:54 am (Updated July 20, 2021 at 11:43 am)

Development must be balanced, says new National Trust leader

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